Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers Charles W. Anderson and the 15th Air Force - Oct. 8th, 2003
Posted on 10/07/2003 11:59:56 PM PDT by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
| Our Mission:
The FReeper Foxhole is dedicated to Veterans of our Nation's military forces and to others who are affected in their relationships with Veterans.
Where the Freeper Foxhole introduces a different veteran each Wednesday. The "ordinary" Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine who participated in the events in our Country's history. We hope to present events as seen through their eyes. To give you a glimpse into the life of those who sacrificed for all of us - Our Veterans.
by Leslie VanderMeulen
Leslie VanderMeulen is a student at Grand Valley State University. For a semester project, she chose to research her grandfather's military career.
Charles Anderson served as a tail gunner in the 15th Army Air Force, 463rd Bomb Group, 772nd Bomb Squadron during World War II. On February 13, 1945 his plane was shot down, and he spent the rest of the war as a POW in several camps.
A young Charles planned to enlist in the Army on a Monday in 1942. It is fortunate that he wanted to join, because he received enlistment papers before he went down to sign up. He departed for St. Louis, Missouri, only twenty-one and recently married. For six months he went through basic training in St. Louis, then (in February 1943) he went to Las Vegas, Nevada for gunnery training. In May of that year he joined his flight crew and departed for Sioux City, Iowa where they underwent combat training. After graduating from combat training, his flight crew picked up their plane in Nebraska and proceeded to their final destination: Foggia, Italy, which remained their home for the duration of the war.
In Foggia, and anywhere troops are stationed during wartime, the soldiers lived in humble quarters, to say the least. All soldiers of every rank slept in tents on the ground at camp. However, my grandfathers crew used their ingenuity and made their stay as comfortable as possible. One night they took the rations of whiskey, which they received periodically, into town where they sold it and bought basic building supplies. When they returned to camp they built a small house, and when everyone woke up in the morning, they saw this little building in the middle of camp. Simply built of brick with a roof on top, it was a humble house. Nevertheless, my grandfather and his crew had the best sleeping quarters of any of the soldiers.
Camp in Foggia, Italy.
Though the crews tried to make the best out of life in the camp, wartime certainly did not consist of fun and games. My grandfathers flight crew performed many missions during their time in Foggia. The crew was part of the15th Army Air Corps, specifically in the 463rd Bomb Group, 772nd Bomb Squadron, where my grandfather did his job as a tail gunner on their B-17. A tail gunners job is to shoot from the rear of the plane. Their final mission took place on February 13, 1945. This mission included bombing Vienna, Austria, and proved to be quite unsuccessful. The plane received a shot in the fourth engine, causing the third engine to catch on fire. This sent the plane crashing down in flames, and the entire crew bailed out at 15,000 feet. The report sent to my grandmother regarding the crash stated plane sighted going down in flames no parachutes sighted.
My grandfather experienced a stroke of luck that day which saved his life. After he bailed out of the plane he landed in a tree, while his crewmembers landed on the ground. When Viennese civilians found six of the crew members, my grandfather watched them lynch his friends right there. The civilians took this action because German soldiers had convinced them that the Air Corps planned to bomb their villages and homes, thus they were very angry at these soldiers. German soldiers did find my grandfathers extra pair of shoes that had fallen off his belt when they went to look for survivors. However, seeing no footprints in the snow, they concluded that this man must be dead. Lucky for my grandfather, they did not look up to see him sitting there in a bare tree.
Tail Gunner position on a B-17
In a report taken after the war, my grandfather stated that he evaded capture for three days, but a farmer turned him in, and he was then taken to Weiner Neustadt Airfield, Austria. Held there from February 16 to March 5, he then encountered interrogation for two days (March 8-10). After the interrogation, he was transported to three more camps. From March 12 through 16 he stayed at Dulagluft, March 18 through April 4 held at Nuremberg, and from April 4 to 29 at Moosburg.
My grandfather never spoke to his children about the treatment at the camps. All that he did say is that they were given very little to eat, so that they would be too weak to fight back. Most imprisoned soldiers involuntarily participated in prison detail, which consisted of any hard labor that could be found to keep the prisoners occupied. Most of this work done outside the camps, thus the Army Air Corps could not participate. Airmen could not perform prison detail because of the angry civilians, who attempted to harm them. If the men in the Air Corps attempted to work outside the prison, civilians tried to throw stones and such at them.
Civilians also abused soldiers during their marches between camps by throwing stones and rocks at them. The walked to and from camps or railcars must have been terrifying. Not only targeted by civilians, my grandfather and fellow soldiers incurred bombing by their own men in a few instances. While on a 100-mile march to Munich, they feared for their lives as their own planes dropped bombs on them. The soldiers faced more bombing by American planes when held locked in boxcars for three days in the Nuremberg Rail Yards. In this situation, the men stood cramped in the small cars with no room to sit, no food, water, or sanitation. The soldiers probably faced more danger between camps, whether walking or on trains, than actually in the camps.
The treatment that my grandfather and his fellow prisoners received was certainly inhumane. The situation did improve in a few instances, however, and that is how they knew the end of the war neared. Food rations increased, and the prisoners began to receive better treatment from the guards. The prisons also removed some guards from their posts who previously mistreated prisoners. This occurred because when the war ended and U.S. troops came in, they asked the soldiers who had mistreated them. These guards got taken out and immediately shot.
Charles W. Anderson
Luckily for my grandfather, his plane was shot down towards the end of the war, therefore was only held as a prisoner of war for a short time. After the war ended, he headed for Camp Lucky Strike in France, where he would be sent to London, and then home. However, he caught the mumps in France, hence he was detained in the hospital for three weeks. By the time he was on the way home, my grandmother finally received word that he had been accounted for. On July 11, 1945 he returned home for good.
Honorably discharged from the Army on September 25, 1945, my grandfather received several medals including a Prisoner of War Medal, an American Campaign Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, and a Purple Heart. Hearing all of this, I wonder how he felt about his experience in the war and how it ended. Since he rarely talked to his kids about it, all I can guess from is the ways in which his personality changed after he returned. Instead of easy-going and gentle, he became a man with an unpredictable temper, not much respect for authority, and a bitterness about him. Obviously this change stemmed from his time during the war, perhaps as a result of seeing and enduring too much in not very many years.
Wonderful read . . . bring back "12 o'clock High".
Something I remeber reading years ago(I forget the source) Bismarck brought together a group of statisticians and asked them when the average worker died. After crunching the numbers the answer they came up with was 64. So old Otto gets up and announces that from now on at age 65 the state will provide a pension to every worker for the rest of his life. And that's why we have 65 as the retirement age.
I will be on some today, however, I fly out tomorrow.
When I go to Hawaii, I always spend time at Pearl. Last time there, my son (ex-navy fire controllman on the tomahawk cruise missle) and I toured the Missouri. He took me into where his station would have been and showed me where he would sit. On the keyboard he pointed out a key was covered over with black tape. He told me under the tape, the key said "Authorize Nuclear" (or something similar). He also said it took direct okay from the President and two keys, neither of which he held.
Lord bless you all and keep you safe.
Oxygen deprivation was a serious problem and was the cause for many aircrew casualties.
I hadn't really thought about that before. Thanks.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
What a sacrifice.
The 15th Air Force was the outfit Ambrose wrote about in "The Wild Blue" as I recall. The Eighth Air Force, based in Britain, seems to have hogged most of the press.
Twelve O'Clock High is an outstanding movie. At one time it was shown to students at the Harvard Business School regarding effective leadership and management techniques.